Publications

Rothstein, Sidney A. “Macune’s Monopoly: Economic Law and the Legacy of Populism.” Studies in American Political Development 28 (April 2014), 80-106.

Abstract: This article argues that the Populist legacy is embodied by the constrained conception of democracy underlying the American state, which restricts popular sovereignty from the economic sphere. Charles Macune led the Farmers’ Alliance according to a robust conception of democracy that insisted on subordinating economic law to popular sovereignty. Macune’s distinct economic thought marked a departure from previous antimonopoly movements, but his reliance on an inductive, empirical, institutionalist economic methodology was shared by the founders of the American Economic Association. Populism did not fail because it relied on outdated economic theory; it was defeated because it represented a coherent and credible threat to the established order. A successful campaign established the hegemony of the deductive method, which posited that manmade laws must serve the natural, universally valid laws of economics and that popular sovereignty must therefore be restrained from the economic realm. Without the means to conceive an alternative relationship between the state and economy, the path of twentieth century American political development has been limited to those possibilities available under a constrained conception of democracy. This article articulates Macune’s political strategy and highlights its underlying principles in order to present a more robust conception of democracy and illustrate the mechanisms by which it was defeated.